The Psychology-Based Marketing 2019 Roundup of Top Stories

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

I wrote these pieces in 2019, though you were still reading my columns from previous years. I think, though, that it’s important to look at the thoughts from this year and perhaps take a look at evergreen pieces at a later time.

These posts are listed based on popularity.

No. 1

“Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words” from Jan. 15 interested the largest number of you. Marketers who are used to using “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free” wanted to see what was new.

I wrote:

“Marketing copy strategies that align with ‘feeling good’ address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.”

No. 2

“3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn” on May 7 gets into how good customer experiences are essential to customer retention.

“Without carefully planned and executed employee onboarding programs, employee attrition goes up, and so does corporate waste, as it costs about nine months of an employees’ salary to terminate and start over again.

“This same principle applies to customer loyalty and the very high cost of losing even just one customer. Yet it’s hard to find “onboarding” programs for customers that are as robust as those for employees. Even with the cost of losing a customer being much higher than the loss of a middle management employee. When you lose a customer, you lose not just the cost of acquiring that customer, you lose the next transaction you were counting on, and you lose their entire lifetime value, which can be pretty substantial in the B2B world.”

No. 3

“The 4 Most Critical Steps for Happy Customers, Profits” appeared on March 12 and got into how the face of your brand needs to be happy, too. Sure, customers care about whether your employees are happy and treated well — especially if it affects how those employees treat them. But Target Marketing blogger Jessica Nable recently pointed out that business partners care, too, and will check if you have heavy turnover.

I write:

“With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.”

No. 4

“The Danger of a Single Story for Marketers in the Age of Storytelling” piqued your interest, starting on Oct. 22.

Stories from us are what pull customers in. If they like the experience, they tell good stories about us. Or, I should say, good stories about what we did for them.

As I say in this column, “We marketers today are really the new age of storytellers.”

  • What’s your story?
  • Do your customers know it?

Here’s how we tell it:

“Our websites, white papers, and content marketing are written just like classic novelettes. A teaser to create intrigue, a climax that builds with all of the reasons a customer needs us and needs us now, and a conclusion for how customers can get what they need from us. For a price.”

Back to You

What do you think will be the top psychology-based marketing stories in 2020? Please let me know in the comments section!

The 4 Most Critical Steps for Happy Customers, Profits

With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.

With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.

No company can exist without happy employees. Trite but true. When customer service representatives, live or in-person, love their job and feel invested in the company they represent, their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. And when we experience that happy employee who wants to make us as happy as they are with their company, we tend to spend happily.

We often experience those hormonal rushes that make us feel like we’re valued, appreciated; that we got a great deal, that we are part of a brand tribe. You know, those dopamine and oxytocin rushes that make us feel infallible and that all is right with the world. And when this happens, we buy. We buy at a higher price than maybe we would have normally, and we buy a larger quantity, or we buy something we really didn’t know we needed.

On the flip side, when we experience an employee who drones on through the process of fulfilling an order, or has no spark, no appreciation, no concern about whether we are happy or not with the product, service or brand, and seems apathetic about their products and customers, we tend to capture that mood, as well. Often, we start to wonder if we are working with the right brand and buying the right products. And when we feel like that, we are much more open to listening to competitors, shopping for options and switching brands.

We humans are drawn to light, energy and enthusiasm with the same intensity that we are repelled from darkness, inertia and lack of confidence. This will never change.

Yet it seems that the employee morale initiatives always take a backseat to delighting customers. And when this happens, our business climate goes from light and contagious enthusiasm to fear and anxiety that sets any kind of organization up for failure. Corporate psychologist, Judith Bardwick, in an interview with NBC news, states it quite well:

“Today, in most organizations, there’s vastly more fear and anxiety than joy and optimism. That’s seriously bad,” says Dr. Judith Bardwick, a corporate psychologist. “While success and recognition generate positive attitudes and energy, failure and non-recognition deplete and exhaust people. Organizations’ must get fear and anxiety levels down, and replace those feelings with a sense of hope, the purposefulness of a united and supportive community and a conviction the future will be better.”

Replacing fear and anxiety with joy and optimism is really quite simple. We humans tend to respond quickly to even the slightest glimmer of hope, making employee morale an achievement that really doesn’t require a lot of money, time or energy.

Consider these simple steps with powerful outcomes:

Listen

Make employees feel valued by listening to ideas. Few things stifle creativity, enthusiasm and productivity more than having no voice and knowing no one cares to hear your great idea or what you learned from a customer. I remember once being told by a supervisor that I was too full of new ideas and enthusiasm and that it was really not appreciated. Needless to say, I found a new job within a year that really valued and appreciated those new ideas.

Celebrate Failure

One of the best things I learned from the Gore School of Business, where I got my MBA, was how GoreTex celebrates failures just like it does successes. When a big ideas fails, the company still celebrates. GoreTex celebrates that someone had the confidence to speak up, share an idea and try something new. This is brilliant, as innovation is key to all industries’ success; and if you stifle innovation, that one really brilliant idea that could put you at the top of your game, industry and profitability will be silenced. Until perhaps that bright employee leaves your company and shares it with your competitor.

Be Transparent

If your business is experiencing change — slowing down or speeding up, or considering merging or adding new business services — share as much as you can with your employees. Those meetings behind closed doors get noticed and interpreted for better or worse. When people feel they are not being informed of situations or circumstances that could affect them, they become anxious and fearful, and that is when enthusiasm dies. And most employees in customer-facing positions are not skilled actors; and so that lack of trust, enthusiasm, hope and even respect will be transmitted to customers. Never a good thing.

Do What You Say You Will

Don’t promise employees a business update, incentive plan, profit-sharing program and such, and then never bring it up again. Idle promises are noticed and create rifts of trust that can be difficult, if not impossible, to fix.

Conclusion

Not only does morale matter for better engagement with customers and contagious enthusiasm that can drive more sales and loyalty, it has some pretty serious fallouts, as well. When employees leave, they often leave for competitors, and take not only their enthusiasm with them, but quite often your business plans and ideas, and knowledge of weaknesses that can be exploited.

Regardless of your role in the company, build a marketing plan for employees. Map out a customer experience that will create enthusiasm, hope and loyalty for your brand. This employee marketing and engagement plan is more important than your customer engagement plan, as no great marketing promises can compensate for a lackluster shopping experience. Without putting employees first, your outside marketing programs could result in one step forward and two steps back.

Think of Customer Experience as a Marketing Investment

As products and services become commoditized, organizations need to begin differentiating themselves by becoming customer-centric and providing a consistently good customer experience. The bar is low; it’s pretty easy to stand out from your competition if you just make a commitment to do so.

As products and services become commoditized, organizations need to begin differentiating themselves by becoming customer-centric and providing a consistently good customer experience. The bar is low; it’s pretty easy to stand out from your competition if you just make a commitment to do so.

Here are eight reasons for your organization to invest in customer experience:

  1. Price Isn’t the Only Differentiator. People will pay more for excellent customer service and a great customer experience. In fact, American Express found consumers are willing to spend 17 percent more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service.
  2. It’s Not That Hard to Improve Level of Customer Service you provide and improve the customer experience of your customers. It does take commitment, focus, determination, measurement and listening.
  3. Happy Customers Are Good Customers. They buy more, they buy more frequently and they tell their family, friends and colleagues about your products, service and their customer experience. And referrals and word of mouth are still the most cost-effective marketing you can get.
  4. CX Doesn’t Require Leading-Edge Software. However, it does require good customer relationship management (CRM) software and a commitment by everyone in the firm to use it and listen intensely to what the customer is saying and how your organization makes them feel.
  5. It’s Cheaper to Retain Current Customers Than Acquire New Customers — some studies suggest by a factor of seven.
  6. Any Company of Any Size Can Provide Consistently Excellent Customer Service and “wow” customer experiences. It’s a customer-centric attitude that starts at the C-level and cascades down to everyone in the organization.
  7. Happy Customers Find New Customers for You. They provide referrals, testimonials, they share their positive thoughts and experiences with family, friends and colleagues, and they post on social media sites.
  8. Improving CX Pays for Itself. Think of providing good customer service as a marketing investment.

Most companies provide lousy customer service and a negative customer experience. CX is a great way to differentiate your firm from your competition. A customer who has an issue that is resolved is more likely to become a long-term customer and spend more with you over time, than the customer who doesn’t complain. Providing great customer service and a “wow” customer experience can help create “raving fans” who will sing your praises to family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers via the Internet and social media.

A dissatisfied customer leaves and tells their friends, and possibly many others, about what a poor job you did. As such, you’re much better off resolving the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.

Use simple math to convince the CEO to bring marketing and customer service together.

Listen intensely to learn customers’ needs and expectations.

Empower everyone in your organization to provide outstanding customer service to end-user customers and colleagues.

Attitude is everything. When every employee considers themselves part of the customer service team, your company is able to deliver a level of customer service that’s a competitive differentiator for your firm.

Pay back customers for their business with excellent customer service. Your customers will become “raving fans” and will evangelize your brand.

Create Direct Mail Pieces Your Customers Sell For You

Is it really possible to create direct mail pieces that get your customers to sell for you? Yes, it is. This is not easy and must have careful planning, but you can drive customers to sell for you through your direct mail program. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. So how can you get your customers started and ready to create direct mail pieces?

Is it really possible to create direct mail pieces that get your customers to sell for you? Yes, it is. This is not easy and must have careful planning, but you can drive customers to sell for you through your direct mail program. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not. So how can you get your customers started and ready to create direct mail pieces?

  1. Happy Customers – Before you can even consider this type of plan, you need to have happy customers. How can you make happy customers? Make sure you know what they want, deliver it to them, plus a little extra. Your customers love it when you go above and beyond and they want others to experience it, too.
  2. Incentives – In order to drive the selling behavior, you need to add an incentive for customers. You can do this with discounts, giveaways or anything else your customers will find value in.
  3. Method – Make it easy for your customers to sell for you with a “give a friend” coupon cards, a tear-off postcard, a buck slip or any other device you can think of for them to share with friends or neighbors.
  4. Tracking – You need to be able to track who is referring you and who your new customers are. In order to do that, you will need to code your pieces so that, as responses come in, you have the ability to match them back to your data. This will also allow you to see which customers brought you the most sales and which offers resonated the most.
  5. Reward – Once you have the information on your top customer referral sales, you should reward them for all of their hard work. A thank you note and a small gift go a long way toward getting you continued business.

Once you have cycled in a new customer, you then want to make them a part of your selling program so that they can share your services with their friends, neighbors and family. This referral program can really build into a nice revenue stream, as long as you are taking care of people along the way. Happy customers are No. 1 for a reason: without them, this program does not work.

Direct mail is a great channel for this type of program, because it gives real tangible materials to your customers to pass on to people they know. Make sure that you are creating pieces that are worthy of their efforts. Make them interesting and of real value. Add images, color and even texture to draw attention. This type of program should have mail pieces that cost more; remember your overhead is lower because the customer is selling for you. Use those extra funds to make fun and engaging pieces people will not only want to pass on but will respond to when they get them.

Not all direct mail is effective. The more time you take in strategic planning and really focusing on the customer and how you can help them, the better this program will work for you. Are you ready to get started?

Turn Your Customers Into Your Best Salespeople

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Enabling satisfied customers to spread the word takes a combination of the right messaging and some careful listening to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable opportunities for positive online word-of-mouth. Empower your brand advocates by devoting attention to these four specific areas:

1. A great customer experience. Certain customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a brand. (This holds true whether they’re B-to-C or B-to-B customers.) Naturally, the first step is to offer a great product or service. Then start paying attention to who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help you locate enthusiastic customers online. Make them prime targets for engagement.

Don’t wait for the active few, go after the silent majority, too. The primary reason most customers don’t share good news about brands they do business with is because they’re never asked. After every appropriate interaction — and without being creepy or becoming a nag — invite your customers to participate in product reviews, experience surveys, customer forums or just plain telephone calls as part of “executive outreach sessions.” Use the channel that the customer used, whether it’s SMS, social, email or retail.

2. Loyalty. Customers willing to share their positive experiences with your brand are well worth your time and resources. Once you’ve found these happy customers, invest in them to create a loyal following. You can’t underestimate the power of simply thanking customers for their business.

In addition, keep your database up to date and integrated with your segmentation and campaign management tools. Update customer profiles to include recognition of brand advocacy and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. In other words, don’t spam. Just because you can email a brand advocate on her birthday, before holidays and whenever her favorite item is on sale doesn’t mean your messages will be welcome.

Track response rates over time so you can optimize message frequency and timing. While many of your loyal customers will be happy to receive lots of notices from you, never assume their interest. One of our retail clients recently found that a whopping 10 percent of their most loyal customers had marked their email messages as spam in the past year. When the retailer reached out to these customers via other channels to find out why, it learned that the email messages were too frequent and not specific to the interests of those customers. Don’t risk upsetting or annoying your customers to the point of complaints. Listen to the response data you have and back off when necessary.

3. A platform to promote. Help your brand advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. They’re multichannel, so think across channels too. Engage them via email, your website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive customer experiences online.

Is your company blog comment friendly? Do you provide a timely response to mentions of your brand on Twitter? Are you using clickstream and email data to inform your personas and segmentation? Does your website provide easy access to contact information for customer service and social media accounts? Present a seamless approach across all platforms — both traditional and digital — so that your messaging is consistent and credible.

4. Pull your head out of the sand. There are dozens of examples every month of brands that tried to ignore negative social commentary or got “shamed” for suppressing negative comments on Facebook. Nestle, for example, battled with Greenpeace supporters who voiced their concerns over the company’s use of palm oil. Rather than listening and engaging with concerned consumers, Nestle created a wealth of bad PR for itself by deleting posts and snapping back at fans. Similarly, Pfizer agitated consumers by deleting Facebook posts that suggested one of its viral video campaigns may be sexist.

If you’re going to listen and respond to social data, you must accept and engage with consumers who don’t agree with your positions or didn’t have a good brand experience. Like all battles of public opinion, the trick is to empower your advocates to respond to your detractors while providing a fact-based, reasonable platform for thoughtful discussion.

Brand advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. Now their voices can be amplified even more via social media networks. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful sales force. Put marketing automation and integration tools to work and you’ll be able to find your satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even more with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.